OLYMPIA - Washington and four other western states have reached an agreement with the operator of ARCO gas stations that is intended to reduce the amount of tobacco products sold to minors at those stations, Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced.
The agreement, expected to be filed Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court, calls for the implementation of new employee hiring and training policies to prevent persons under legal age from purchasing tobacco products at ARCO stations and convenience stores.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an estimated 690 million packs of cigarettes are sold illegally to children each year, and 47 percent of youth who buy cigarettes identify retail outlets that sell gasoline as their primary point of purchase. Another 27 percent identify convenience stores.
Parties to the agreement include the Washington Attorney General's Office and BP West Coast Products LLC, which markets gasoline, cigarettes and other products through 148 company or independently owned ARCO outlets in Washington. BP Products also entered into the agreement with the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Nevada and Oregon.
"Underage kids should not be getting packs of cigarettes along with their change when they stop to buy gas at a local convenience store," Gregoire said.
While BP Products believed its current policies were in full compliance with laws and regulations, it voluntarily agreed to take additional steps to curb tobacco sales to minors, including:
- Minimizing the use of under-aged persons in positions that may involve selling tobacco.
- Providing job applicants with explanations of the company's policies relating to the sale of tobacco products to minors, including warnings that sales to minors may be cause for dismissal.
- Providing new employees with copies of company policies regarding tobacco sales, and providing training in tobacco laws and company policies within two weeks of an employee's assumption of duties.
To the extent possible, BP Products also agreed to program cash registers to lock when a tobacco product is purchased, requiring employees to ID customers and enter their birthdates prior to completing the sale. It also agreed to prominently display the statements, "We ID under 35" or We ID Everyone" in stores.
The agreement came after checks by the FDA and state authorities showed retail outlets operating under the BP or Amoco trademarks sold tobacco products to persons under 18.
Since February 2002, the state has entered into similar voluntary agreements with Walgreens, Exxon Mobile Corp., and BP Amoco.